A Complete Guide to Co-Managed IT Support

Table of Contents

Co-managed IT support has been gaining popularity with business owners and executives because it offers flexible, simple solutions to complex IT problems. It also allows them to maximize the efficiency of their IT team and save on labor costs.

In this guide, we’ll take a deeper dive into what co-managed IT support is, potential use cases, who’s a fit, what’s included, potential benefits, and possible challenges to look out for.  

What is Co-Managed IT?

The field of IT is vast. It’s impossible to know everything about everything. Even very capable IT teams have areas of strength and weakness. Add to that the complexity of cybersecurity, the hassle of compliance with regulatory bodies, and the ever-changing threat landscape that exists.  Suddenly you start to understand why a single IT guy or small IT department might not be able to be experts in everything. That can create risk for businesses.

Co-managed IT seeks to solve some of those problems. The idea is simple: keep your existing IT department and leverage a managed service provider to help fill in any gaps for skills, solutions, or services. This allows you to have a complete solution in place for IT. It also allows you to have subject matter experts, get the coverage you need, and save on costs.

Who’s a Fit for Co-Managed IT?

The right fit for co-managed IT really comes down to your situation and use case. There are a lot of different situations where this solution can add a lot of value.  Read through the use cases below, and if any of them resonate with you, you’re likely a good fit.

Skills Gap

One of the most common use cases for co-managed IT is a skills gap. IT is such a broad field that your team may not have expertise in a certain area. Perhaps they don’t know anything about Microsoft Azure or how to do a cloud migration. Maybe they’re not comfortable with server support or network storage.  

Many IT teams can fumble through an unfamiliar project with enough googling and maybe some accompanying downtime when something goes wrong. The cost of the frustration and downtime can be significant and can often be alleviated by having a subject matter expert on your team.

Project Execution

There are many IT teams out there that work hard all day every day and are at maximum capacity. This presents a challenge when the business has need of a larger project or initiative that is outside of their normal daily duties. IT staff don’t have time or resources to do both their regular activities and long-term projects.

Co-managed IT offers the manpower you need when you need it to tackle those projects. This allows your internal IT staff to continue to focus on the needs of their users while your project gets completed. Dedicated resources from an MSP are typically also able to accomplish large projects in less time because their focus is not pulled off to other tasks or user needs.

If your business has a large project like a cloud migration, server or network hardware replacement, or implementation of a security framework like NIST, co-managed IT support can give you the skilled hands you need to get the job done.

Overburdened IT Staff

Some IT teams simply have more work than they can handle. Whether it’s a flood of help desk tickets or a slew of offline servers, keeping up with demand can be a challenge. The additional need is typically not equal to the output of another full-time employee. You could hire one, but that individual would likely not be at full capacity.

Co-managed IT can help solve this problem as well. They can take the additional load off wherever they are needed. This allows your internal IT to focus on the things that matter most to the company and helps to avoid employee burnout.

Best Use of Resources & Cost Savings

Depending on the structure of your internal IT department, they may be better set up to deliver help desk support or server network administration. Help desk is often around 80% of the workload of an IT department.

Co-managed IT allows you to focus your team on the tasks they are best suited to, while outsourcing the remaining needs. With the right labor mix in place, you can have all bases covered without hiring additional IT staff and save significantly on IT labor costs.

Cybersecurity Specialist

IT security is a fast-paced field where threats and solutions are ever changing. Unless your IT department is lucky enough to have an individual dedicated to security, managing it properly can be a challenge. Many IT tasks can successfully be completed by an IT generalist. Security is best when left to a dedicated professional.

Strategic outsourcing of your IT security needs can help make sure your network is protected.  This gives you confidence your data is safe and unburdens your IT team to focus on other tasks.

Scalable and Flexible

Another potential use case for co-managed IT is a company that has a steep growth trajectory, or one that has IT needs that change quickly. Hiring for IT can be a long process—finding the right candidate can take months, and then once you get them onboarded, they still need to be trained before they are up to speed. If your business is changing rapidly, this may take too long.

Co-managed IT allows you and your team access to on demand resources. You don’t have to train them. You don’t have to go through a hiring process. They’re ready immediately and can get to work.

In addition, you can scale up or scale down resources as your technology demands change.  This gives you a lot more flexibility than full-time IT staff. 

Vacation Coverage

Everybody needs a break occasionally. If you have a small IT staff or a one-man IT team, getting time off can be a struggle. IT support needs don’t stop. Requests don’t stop coming in.  This can leave your IT team fielding emails and calls from the beach when they should be enjoying their time off. Burnout and other problems can result.

Co-managed IT support allows you to have additional resources at your disposal to cover their vacations and give them the time off they deserve.  This helps with retaining key IT talent.

Managed IT Toolset

Another challenge small IT departments frequently run into is not having the right tools for their job. The IT industry has a bevy of helpful tools that allow IT staff to streamline and automate many IT functions.  

Solutions exist to track service tickets, manage inventory, secure IT documentation, automate security patches and updates, centrally manage software, track IT inventory, and more.  Most small IT departments don’t have solutions for these items, so they are either manually tracked on a spreadsheet somewhere or sometimes not tracked at all.

Having the right tools in place saves your team labor, allows you to have a better overall picture of your IT health, and gives you more accurate data for budgeting and forecast needs.

Who’s Not a Fit for Co-Managed IT?

Co-managed isn’t for everybody. If your company doesn’t have an internal IT department it won’t be a fit. A fully managed IT service is probably a better fit for your needs. Most of the MSPs that offer co-managed IT also offer fully managed services.

If your IT department doesn’t play well with others, it can be a challenge. Rooted in insecurity, some IT teams struggle with the idea of shared ownership over IT. If this is the attitude of your internal IT team, it will surely negate any benefits you might have enjoyed from co-managed IT due to the friction it introduces into the relationship.  

IT dictators are common, and if you have one running your IT team don’t bother with co-managed. It will almost certainly be an abject failure. If you want the benefits of co-managed IT, you may have to make changes to your internal IT staff before you can enjoy them.

An Easily Avoidable Common Problem

One of the most common issues with Co-Managed IT solutions is finger-pointing. Internal IT says it’s not our job, and the MSP says the same thing. To avoid this, there needs to be a clear-cut division of duties in writing upfront that defines the services to be offered by the IT provider. It also needs to be clear what duties your internal IT staff will take care of.

A little time and care upfront with these definitions will save time and confusion from both sides later in the relationship. The last thing you want for your business is to have tasks go undone because both sides assumed the other was doing it and didn’t communicate.

Common Solutions and Services in Co-Managed IT

If your organization has a good use case for co-managed IT, you may be asking what are the specific services that most organizations are taking advantage of. Here are some of the most common services and solutions that get outsourced. Remember that co-managed IT is meant to be flexible. If your team has services outside of these they want help with, ask your provider about your specific needs.

Cyber Security

Cybersecurity is a top priority for business owners as the digital landscape continues to evolve with advanced threat actors. Keeping up to date with the latest and greatest in threat detection and remediation can be a costly and time-consuming task… this is why many organizations outsource their security services to experts.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery solutions can be time consuming to maintain for your internal IT team.  Depending on your data stack and locations of data, they can also be complex. Disaster recovery solutions are a critical function of IT, and if the manpower isn’t there, internal backups are frequently outsourced.

vCIO Services

A Virtual Chief Information Officer(vCIO) will  develop, plan, and implement an information technology (IT) strategy that meets the company’s business needs, delivers optimal return on investment, and maintains utmost security.

A Virtual CIO is a great fit for small IT departments that don’t have the budget for a full-time C-level resource. This allows you to take advantage of strategic planning services and high-level oversight, but at a fraction of the cost of a high level full time employee.

Cloud Services

Many businesses have been making the move to the cloud over the last few years. There are a lot of potential benefits.  One of the main drivers to move to the cloud has been recent work from home needs.  The cloud allows you to easily collaborate from anywhere without having to connect to physical servers at the office.  It’s also scalable, so it grows with you.  Flexibility and security can also be increased when leveraging the right cloud solutions.

The cloud can offer many advantages over on-premises servers but also offers some migration and support challenges. If your team doesn’t have specific cloud experience this one might be a good fit for your co-managed IT partner.

Server and Network Support

Many entry level IT technicians have experience with desktop support but not servers or networks. Servers also frequently require specialized support and tools to monitor them 24/7 and back them up.  Higher level training is needed for IT staff to manage things like active directory and Microsoft SQL.  If your IT team doesn’t have that skill set, consider outsourcing those services.

Security Patches and Routine Maintenance

Many internal IT teams lack the tools that allow them to automate patches and updates. If done as a manual process, this can be extremely time consuming. If left undone, you will have security vulnerabilities. An outsourced partner will have the tools to automate this for efficiency and cut down on man-hours.

Strategic Projects

Large projects can easily be outsourced with a co-managed IT partner. They have an entire staff of qualified engineers to tackle a project. This generally means that the project will be completed in less time and with fewer mistakes.

Help Desk

Outsourcing help desk support can allow your internal IT staff to focus on server network support or other strategic initiatives for your organization. It can also improve responsiveness on the helpdesk for your users and their overall experience.


The best co-managed IT partners are masters of efficient IT administration and automation.  They can help automate routine IT tasks like patches and updates, firmware upgrades, software installs, reporting, and more.


Managing IT inventory can be time consuming and cumbersome for your IT team.  A good partner will leverage quality tools to help manage inventory efficiently so that it’s always up to date.


Quality reporting for IT is often overlooked. It can help you make informed decisions as an organization about how to best manage your IT resources. Planning becomes simpler with better data. A good partner can help implement excellent reporting that is sometimes difficult to get with in-house IT staff.

Custom-Built Services

Most co-managed IT partnerships are tailored to the clients they are designed for. Talk with your managed service provider about needed services and support. They can put together a package specific to the needs of your organizations and desires of your in-house IT team.

Co-Managed IT Support: Pros and Cons

Every decision you make as a business owner or executive has pros and cons to it. Let’s lay out some of the pros and cons to co-managed IT.

Pros of Co-Managed Services

  • Savings/Best Use of Budget Resources – Co-managed IT can usually save you significantly on your IT budget over hiring additional full-time IT staff.
  • Fill the Skills Gap – You have an entire team of experts at your disposal to tackle the most complicated issues when they come up.  Subject matter experts in every corner of IT are a key to successful projects.
  • Security Experts – IT Security is really its own beast. Co-managed support allows you to have security experts on your team without adding an expensive headcount. Not getting hacked is priceless!
  • Keep In-House Team – You get to keep your current in-house team. They know your network better than anybody. Their onsite presence also allows them to have the fastest response times. Augment, don’t replace.
  • Automation – Co-managed support gives you access to IT automation tools that you otherwise would not have. This can save your company time and money by eliminating manual IT labor hours.
  • Toolset and Reporting – Your business can get access to an advanced toolset for IT via the right partner for less money than they could buy and maintain it for themselves.  You’ll also get some great reporting that will inform your IT decisions.
  • Flexible/Scalable – IT needs don’t come in the size of one FTE. Co-managed gives you access to skilled labor when you need it, and you don’t have to pay for it when you don’t. It can also grow quickly to meet the needs of your growing enterprise.
  • Focus on Strategic Projects – Focus matters.  Getting your team back to working on the strategic projects that matter most to your organization by outsourcing the distractions can be a huge boon.

Cons of Co-Managed IT Services

  • Needs Investment and Buy In – To be successful, co-managed IT needs initial investment. Sometimes projects need to be funded or hardware purchased. It can save you money in the long run but usually costs something upfront. It also needs buy-in from both the IT team and the management team to be successful. Without that, the relationship will be strained and face challenges.
  • Lack of Trust – Some IT teams are threatened by any outside resource.  I can say confidently that we don’t want their job, but that is sometimes the assumption. Trust on both sides is a necessity. If that can’t be achieved, then co-managed probably isn’t the right solution.
  • Startup and Training Time – The co-managed IT partner will usually need some time to set up new tools and systems. Your in-house IT team will also need time to get trained on new systems. While labor may be readily available, it may take a few months to see the full benefit.
  • Undefined Division of Duties Leads to Finger-Pointing – If not properly defined upfront, the division of duties can be a mess. Things get left undone. In-house IT blames your partner. Your partner pushes back on the in-house team.
  • Poor Communication – Poor communication on both sides can be an issue.  Clear communication about defined roles and project completion is essential. Excellent communication breeds success.

Best of Both Worlds: Co-Managed IT Solutions

Co-managed IT has the potential to be the very best of both worlds for your organization.  It can add the needed IT skillset at a fraction of the cost of hiring additional staff. If you go in with eyes wide open and defined roles, it can solve a lot of problems.  

Essentially, you can have a fractional, full-service enterprise IT department at your service to fill any gaps you may have in your current solution. They can unburden your IT staff and allow them to refocus on what matters most.

It’s not a perfect fit for everyone. Hit the button below for a free consultation, and we can discuss your specific needs. Together, we can figure out if co-managed IT is the right fit for your business.